QATAR (Tier 2 Watch List)
Qatar is a transit and destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sudan, Thailand, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and China voluntarily travel to Qatar as laborers and domestic servants, but some subsequently face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude. These conditions include threats of serious harm, including financial harm; job switching; withholding of pay; charging workers for benefits for which the employer is responsible; restrictions on freedom of movement, including the confiscation of passports and travel documents and the withholding of exit permits; arbitrary detention; threats of legal action and deportation; false charges; and physical, mental and sexual abuse. One Nepali man was reportedly recruited for work in Qatar as a domestic servant, but was then coerced or forced into labor in Saudi Arabia as a farm worker. Qatar is also a destination for women from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, India, Africa, and Eastern Europe for prostitution, but it is unknown how many are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.
The Government of Qatar does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In February 2009, Qatar enacted a new migrant worker sponsorship law that criminalizes some practices commonly used by trafficking offenders, and it announced plans to use that law effectively to prevent human trafficking. Senior members of the Qatari government have indicated their plans to finalize and enact a draft comprehensive law on human trafficking. These measures constitute significant efforts by the Qatari government; because they are steps that the government has indicated it will carry out over the coming year, Qatar is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The Qatari government in early 2009 launched a month-long public outreach campaign that involved local imams advocating anti-trafficking norms and designed to heighten citizen awareness of trafficking in persons. However, punishment for offenses related to trafficking in persons remains lower than that for crimes such as rape and kidnapping, and the Qatari government has yet to take significant action to investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenses. In addition, the government continues to lack formal victim identification procedures and, as a result, victims of trafficking are likely punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
Recommendations for Qatar: Enact the draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; institute and consistently apply formal procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as those arrested for immigration violations or prostitution; and abolish or significantly amend provisions of Qatar's sponsorship law – such as the provision requiring workers to obtain their sponsor's permission to leave Qatar – to prevent the forced labor of migrant workers.
The Government of Qatar made modest efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses during the reporting period. Qatar does not prohibit all acts of trafficking, but it criminalizes slavery under Section 321 and forced labor under Section 322 of its Criminal Law. The prescribed penalty for forced labor – up to six months' imprisonment – is not sufficiently stringent. Article 297 prohibits the forced or coerced prostitution of a child below age 16; the prescribed penalty is up to 15 years' imprisonment, which is commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. In February of 2009, the Qatari government enacted a new sponsorship law that explicitly prohibited certain acts found to be common to trafficking in persons. Under this new law employers face stiff penalties and up to three years in jail for such offenses as withholding employees' passports and forcing employees to work for people other than their sponsors. Nonetheless, the government does not have any laws that specifically target all trafficking offenses. During the reporting period, the government prosecuted two individuals under trafficking-related laws. One of these resulted in the conviction of a foreign national for murdering a domestic worker, who was believed to have been subjected to conditions of forced labor; the defendant was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. The government provided no other evidence of criminally prosecuting or punishing employers or recruiters for forced labor or fraudulent recruitment. Similarly, the government failed to report any law enforcement efforts against trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
Qatar failed to make significant efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. Although health care facilities reportedly refer suspected abuse cases to the government anti-trafficking shelter for investigation, the government continues to lack a systematic procedure for law enforcement to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations such as foreign workers awaiting deportation and women arrested for prostitution; as a result victims may be punished and automatically deported without being offered protection. Qatar commonly fines and detains potential trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as immigration violations and running away from their sponsors, without determining the underlying causes. Some potential victims remain in deportation centers for several months pending resolution of their cases, permission from their sponsors to leave the country, or in retaliation for seeking to recover unpaid wages or request a new sponsor. The government-operated shelter for victims of trafficking remained underutilized, although it provides some victims with medical, psychological, and legal assistance. During the reporting period, the shelter assisted five victims in filing civil charges against their employers. Qatar sometimes offers relief from deportation so that victims can testify as witnesses against their employers. Nonetheless, the government did not routinely encourage victims to assist in trafficking investigations or consistently offer victims alternatives to removal to countries where they may face retribution or hardship.
Qatar made significant efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. The government continued to produce informational anti-trafficking brochures in several targeted languages, posters, and radio and TV commercials. In addition, a large outreach program that enlisted the support of local imams began in March 2009 with the aim of educating Qatari citizens about the moral and legal implications of trafficking in persons. During the year, senior Qatari officials made public statements reflecting the government's recognition that trafficking in persons is a serious problem in Qatar, though the problem was characterized as a phenomenon that originates in the country of origin rather than Qatar itself. Qatar also tightened visa requirements to prevent the entry of women suspected of engaging in prostitution, but did not report efforts to distinguish these women from victims of trafficking to protect them. The government did not take any other reported measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Similarly, Qatar did not undertake any known public awareness campaigns targeting citizens traveling to known child sex tourism destinations abroad.